Sunday, December 1, 2013

Charitable giving: is it a religious thing?

Why do religious people give more to charity than non-believers?  An easy answer is because of their religious faith.  After all, aren't the Gospels full of exhortations to take care of the poor?  So therefore, religious people give more, right?

Turns out, not so much. (my emphases)
Based on a major national survey, [a new] report finds that three-quarters of all household charitable giving goes to organizations that have religious ties. These span the range from large organizations like the Salvation Army (which, many Americans do not realize, is actually a church) to small soup kitchens run out of church basements.
Not only do Americans give generously to charities with religious affiliations, but the most religious Americans are also the most charitable. ...[T]here is a strong connection between being religious and being charitable. Not surprisingly, the most highly religious Americans contribute their time and treasure to religious causes. But they also give to secular causes—at a higher rate than do the most secular Americans. 
...We initially thought that religious beliefs must foster a sense of charity—whether inspiration from biblical stories like the Good Samaritan or, perhaps, a fear of God’s judgment for not acting charitably. However, we could find no evidence linking people’s theological beliefs and their rate of giving... 
Rather than religious beliefs, we found that the “secret ingredient” for charitable giving among religious Americans is the social networks formed within religious congregations. The more friends someone has within a religious congregation, the more likely that person is to give time, money, or both, to charitable causes. In fact, even non-religious people who have friends within a religious congregation (typically, because their spouse is a believer) are highly charitable—more so than strong believers who have few social ties within a congregation.
It's all about community.  I am not in the least bit surprised!

(H/T Andrew Sullivan.)


JCF said...

Off-topic: what happened to the blog roll---how come it doesn't list most recent posts anymore?

JCF said...

Ack, nevermind. I reloaded the page, and blog roll displayed properly...

Kevin K said...

It would be interesting to see if persons who are members of "secular" social networks give in the same amount as those in or affiliated with someone in religious networks. This would support the it is all about community argument.

Kevin K.

JCF said...

Aw, heck, this is going to be a "thing" now for me, isn't it? Sometimes the blog roll loads, sometimes it doesn't?

I hate having IE8/not being able to update it... :-(